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Faces of Blue: Patrick Francois

By March 1, 2013Faces of Blue

FOB-PatrickFrancois1Who am I?
I am a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, and friend. I have been a fire fighter for over 25 years. I started as a military fire fighter in the Air Force serving in the first Gulf War. Then I turned to the municipal side in 1996. But then I decided to serve my country again, but as a civilian. So I worked as a contract fire fighter in Iraq “Protecting Those Who Protect the Peace”.

The Beginning
I started noticing bloody stools back in November of 2007. I was working as a contract fire fighter in Iraq when I discovered the blood in my stools and really didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was just hemorrhoids.  I knew better because I am a paramedic and blood in the stool is a late sign of cancer. My attitude told me that I am too young to have cancer. I was in great shape – 175 pounds, 31” waist, 18” biceps and ABS!!! The Superman complex had taken over.

As time went on it was getting worse and worse. I left Iraq for Saudi Arabia in 2008. Took a position as a fire fighter paramedic, still working for the military as a contractor. Passed the company physical with flying colors – no worries right? Little did I know what was coming up?

I needed to go home to renew my paramedic license in April of 2009 so I took a little 10-day vacation. Prior to me coming home I had told my wife that my symptoms – constipation, bloody and narrowing stools, and mucous – were worsening. She said “That’s it I am scheduling you an appointment with the family doctor”. At this point I wasn’t going to disagree, it was bad.

On April 16th I saw my doctor and he did a digital exam and could feel something, so he said to be on the safe side let’s set up a colonoscopy. The day finally came – 22nd of April 2009 – and my family and I went to the Gastroenterology Clinic.

I woke up towards the end of the procedure when there it was staring me in the face. I did not know what to say other than “What the F*** is that?” My doctor was precise and calm when he told me “YOU HAVE CANCER”. He quietly put his suit jacket on and told the nurses he was going to speak with my wife. There was such an eerie silence in the room, but those three words hadn’t become reality to me yet. It wasn’t until my girls came into the room that it started to hit me. One by one they came in hugging and kissing me, saying “I Love You Daddy.” Even then it wasn’t totally real yet. It finally became reality when my wife, Sherri walked in wearing sunglasses. She only wore sunglasses inside when she was crying. She asked a question as to why you? I simply responded with why not me. Our journey had officially begun.FOB-PatrickFrancois2

World Upside Down
Man, the world was spinning. They, the doctors, hospitals, nurses, and staff had me going everywhere. You need to get a CT scan with contrast. Oh, you need to an endoscopic ultrasound. Your appointment with the oncologist is Friday. Also need to get set up with radiology and Doctor Alipati will be your surgeon. STOPPPPPPPPPP!!! Wait a second! I am catching a flight back to Saudi Arabia in two days! Well, I can say that didn’t happen.

My treatments of 5FU began in May along with radiation. My entire team was awesome. Once the treatments were complete I had another scope. This time it was just into the sigmoid. The cancer was completely gone. It looked pink and healthy. I asked my surgeon if it was necessary to have the surgery. He replied simply with YES. I wasn’t going to disagree. I called him the Man with Million Dollar Hands.

On July 29th my surgery was conducted with success. My surgeon left me a little gift – an ileostomy – that I would be able to return in six months. He gave me a month off before starting KILLER CHEMO!! Once again I asked him if it was really necessary for me to go through chemo since all the biopsies came back negative. He replied with “If you were a running back in the NFL and needed ten yards to win the game and only got nine and a half, well that is what it would be if you didn’t finish the chemo”. It was a no brainer to continue with chemo. BRING IT!!

Down the Stretch They Come
Final four months were the toughest. It wasn’t the chemo, but the financial and emotional stress. You see I lost my job – I was medically terminated – my insurance, and pretty much all HOPE of survival. I was in a funk. I started questioning my manhood. I am the one who provides for this family. I put food on the table, and keep a roof over their heads. Cancer was winning and I was letting it.

FOB-PatrickFrancois3My family brought me back to reality and gave me the LOVE and HOPE I so desperately needed. My wife, girls and grandson were all that mattered. They showed me so much hope and strength that I couldn’t give up. Chemo was tough this time around but it didn’t matter because I had my family with me!  Love and hope is all you need to beat this disease. December 14th was my final day of my chemo treatments. I had graduated!!

I had surgery in January of 2010 to take down the ileostomy. In March of that year, I was given the CANCER FREE label and the green light to return back to work as a fire fighter. Ironically enough I went back to work on April 28th of 2010 for the same company that medically terminated me. I still work for them today and they promoted me to Assistant Fire Chief.

I will forever be indebted to a lot of people. There was this whole community who came to my rescue along with family and friends. People I never seen or knew – People extending me their love and prayers. I just want to say THANK YOU all of my “DEERE” Friends!!!

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